Comment by Paul Tuns
The Interim

The Dec. 26 tsunami that ravaged southern Asia (and the east coast of central Africa) has led to a tidal wave of compassion from both the citizens and governments of the West. Individually and collectively, the pledges of financial assistance reached the hundreds of millions of dollars within days. Just over a week after the disaster, Doctors Without Borders in the United States stopped taking donations for this particular project, because people’s generosity exceeded the organization’s ability to deliver medical care to the victims.

Immediately after the massive tidal wave crashed into remote villages, rural farms and tourist resorts, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and dozens of other organizations, especially religious charities such as Caritas and the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, were on the ground in the affected areas, helping those hurt and broken from the disaster. But as charities with a presence already in the area were helping people, and American armed forces were delivering much needed supplies to the hungry and distraught, food and medical supplies brought in by the United Nations sat in airports, as the international agency’s bureaucrats met to determine how to distribute them. India and American officials walked out of the meetings, saying that the UN was a hindrance to getting much-needed supplies to the affected people.

Unfortunately, one of the organizations Canadians donated to en masse was UNICEF, an organization that the British medical journal Lancet criticized in December as one that has lost its sense of mission. Editor Richard Horton said UNICEF has given priority to so-called children’s rights, including sexual rights, over its primary mandate; namely, to save the lives of children through improved health initiatives. For the past decade, UNICEF has been as concerned about distributing condoms to teens as it has with inoculation shots for newborns. What aid will UNICEF focus on in south Asia?

UNICEF does not deserve our support until it guarantees it is not involved in promoting or enabling sexual promiscuity among adolescents. It is not enough for it to claim that monies raised at this time will not go for condoms and contraceptives, or for political gimmicks highlighting some ill-defined “children’s rights.” It must end its support for these activities before it can earn the right to our dollars.

But UNICEF isn’t the only sex-obsessed relief agency involved in post-tsunami Asia. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called for $28 million (US) for “reproductive health services” in the tsunami-stricken regions of Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. According to the UNFPA’s Reproductive Health in Emergency Situations manual, the “reproductive health needs” of refugees include “guaranteeing the availability of condoms.” The UNFPA has developed “reproductive health kits” for the tsunami victims that include condoms, oral and injectable contraceptives (including the abortifacient morning-after pill), IUDs, and “manual vacuum aspirators” (portable abortion devices).

We all know that it is the UNFPA’s bailiwick to promote abortion and contraceptives. That, unfortunately, is what it does. But are condoms, IUDs and portable abortion devices what the people of south Asia need right now? That the UNFPA would be on the ground distributing the tools of the culture of death illustrates the United Nations’ deeply troubling (but unsurprising) priorities.

Next month, The Interim will report on the tsunami relief efforts of religious charities in the region.